Tossed and turned all night? Actually, you may have slept more than you thought. A comprehensive review of sleep research done in the U.K. found that people with insomnia tend to overestimate the time it takes them to fall asleep and underestimate the amount of sleep they got.
“Misperception of sleep is a ubiquitous (though not universal) phenomenon among patients with insomnia,” says Prof. Nicole Tang from Keele University in Staffordshire, U.K., who studies sleep.
Knowing that you’re getting more sleep than you thought may help you relax and stop worrying. It’s common for people to lose sleep if they are stressed, excited, worried, jet lagged, or kept awake by loud noises.
“Remember the last time when work was stressful, you had too much coffee in the evening, the night before an important job interview, after coming home from an exotic holiday or the night when your neighbour decided to have a loud party?” asks Tang.
To avoid sporadic insomnia, it’s a good idea to exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet and keep a regular sleep/wake pattern. According to Tang, sleeping well doesn’t necessarily mean sleeping through to the morning without waking up.
“This may be an idealized picture of how sleep should be, as many good sleepers wake up several times in the night too,” she says.
If you feel that your insomnia is out of control, Tang suggests keeping a sleep diary then visiting your doctor to get help.